Appolonia sets goal record for streaking Yough girls soccer

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019 | 4:14 PM


Growing up in a soccer family, Justine Appolonia has been scoring goals since she can remember.

After Saturday, she can say no girl at Yough High School has scored more.

The senior Youngstown State recruit netted three goals in a 7-0 win over South Allegheny to give her 107 for her career. It topped the 106-goal mark Jennifer Peddicord established in 1998.

“It’s obviously a very great honor to be able to do it, but it’s not really about me. It’s more of a team effort,” Appolonia said. “Without the rest of the team, there’s no way would I have scored that many goals. It’s a tribute to the whole team. Everyone who knows me, knows that it’s more about our team than Justine Appolonia.”

She’s quick to credit her family, too. Older sisters, Leigh and Corynn, both played soccer at Yough, while twin sister Gianna is on the team now. Their father, Dann, is the Cougars’ head coach.

“It’s a lot easier growing up in a whole soccer family where everyone shares the love for it than if I was the only one,” Justine said. “It was super encouraging watching my older sisters play. Leigh and her whole class were great. I was a ball girl for them and looked up to them. I couldn’t wait to be the one on the playing field when I got older.

“My dad has pretty much taught me everything I know. I owe pretty much my whole soccer career to him. Even though he can get on me harder than other people, sometimes, it’s worth it,” she continued. “I’ve grown a lot over the years. As a freshman, I was not a confident soccer player. I knew I had some skills, but didn’t know how to use them. I can confidently say now that I know my style of play and when to take the ball and pass the ball. I’ve become a lot physically stronger the past four years. That’s helped me. I am no longer getting pushed off the ball.”

This fall, Justine and Gianna Appolonia anchor Yough’s midfield.

“It’s special to play on the same team as Gianna. We spend pretty much every day together,” Justine said. “It’s cool seeing us both develop through the years. We’ve learned how we play and we work off each other well. We have that bond not everyone has.”

Dann has enjoyed coaching his daughters.

“It’s been fun. It’s hard, at times, being both coach and parent. My focus has to be on the team. I can’t really enjoy the moments,” he said. “Even if Justine would score a goal, what’s running through my head is what to do differently to keep the lead or, if we’re behind, what do we need to do to catch up. At the same time, it’s been a blast coaching her over the past four years.

“I was certainly proud of her for setting the record. She works hard just like a lot of the players on our team. She has been consistent through her four years,” he continued. “I have basically 25 daughters on this team. I enjoy coaching every single one of them and watching them succeed. I am happy when any of our players does something great. This year, a lot of them are doing a lot of great things.”

The Cougars (11-1-1, 9-1-1 Section 3-AA), unbeaten in their last nine (8-0-1), have surged to the top of the Section 3-AA standings and served notice they are a WPIAL title contender in a crowded field.

“We’ve been sort of talking since the beginning of year that, if you can hold your own in this section, you can hold your own in the playoffs, too. That’s not to say there aren’t other good sections, too,” Dann said. “I just really think, this year, there’s not one team that sticks out that’s the favorite. Going into the playoffs, there are six or eight teams that are really strong. It’ll come down to who is playing their best, who is the healthiest and who gets a bounce or two.”

For Justine and the rest of Yough’s seniors, they want to go out with a strong postseason run.

“We’ve all been waiting for the moment when it clicks,” she said. “I think the whole team, at this point, knows we have the skill and we can do it, so why not do it?”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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